Heat break up Nets’ unbeaten streak
Dwyane Wade studied the sheet of paper in front of him, wondering if there was a mistake.
”Is this first-half stats?” Wade asked. ”Nine shots?”
”That’s the whole game,” LeBron James answered.
Wade doesn’t need to shoot much anymore, not since James and Chris Bosh joined him to form a potential powerhouse in Miami.
James scored 20 points, Bosh and Wade were close behind, and the Heat ended the New Jersey Nets’ unbeaten start with a 101-78 victory Sunday.
Bosh finished with 18 points and Wade added 17, both getting most of them in Miami’s dominant first half before sitting out the fourth quarter. James played a little of the final period and added seven rebounds and seven assists.
”The balance is what we are here together for,” Wade said, ”to have an opportunity to make the game easy on everyone and we’re doing it. We’re playing great team basketball and we’re still not where we want to be, but we’re making sure everyone gets an opportunity.”
It was the most impressive offensive performance yet for the Heat, who have won three straight since beginning their new era with a loss in Boston on opening night. Miami shot 68 percent in the first half, when its Big Three combined for 41 points — one fewer than New Jersey — and the stats only lowered when the reserves took over toward the end.
Bosh was 8 of 10 from the field, determined to be more aggressive after he struggled in two of Miami’s first three games.
”When I watch other games and I’m not aggressive, we don’t do as well on that certain possession, we either turn the ball over or we don’t get a good shot because we’re fighting the shot clock,” he said.
Brook Lopez scored 20 points and rookie Derrick Favors had 13 points and 13 rebounds in the Nets’ first loss this season before new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who watched his third game this week before heading back to Russia.
The Nets followed their 12-70 finish from last season by opening with victories over Detroit and Sacramento — an especially good start since they set an NBA record by dropping their first 18 games of 2009-10.
But those are lottery teams. Miami is a championship contender.
The Heat were coming off their first big victory, overpowering rival Orlando 96-70 on Friday night in their home opener. Coach Erik Spoelstra said before Sunday’s early start he hoped there would be no hangover.
Nothing to worry about.
Even with James picking up a pair of early fouls, the Heat made 10 of 14 shots (71 percent) in the first quarter, building a double-digit lead less than halfway through the period en route to a 29-18 cushion after one.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who followed James from Cleveland to Miami, started the second quarter with a flurry, and the lead was up to 18 after a dunk by James. The Nets couldn’t do much to cut into it and the Heat led 58-42 at halftime.
”I told my team during the course of the year that there will be two or three or four games where you’re not very good, and this was one of them,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. ”We weren’t good from the start. We were stuck in the mud, we were stuck in second gear.”
James made his first visit to a team he met with during free agency. He admitted Sunday he would change some things about the process if he had the chance — he didn’t specify what they were — but reiterated he’s comfortable he made the right decision.
The Nets were the first team to sit down with James and believed the new direction they promised under Prokhorov gave them a chance. James praised the organization before the game but fans apparently haven’t forgiven, booing the former crowd favorite during introductions and the first few times he touched the ball – though there were loud cheers when he threw down a couple of powerful dunks.
James said he considered that the NBA’s great new show could have been based in New Jersey.
”On the way to the game, I even mentioned it to Chris, just saying ‘This is a point where we could have ended up at,” James said. ”But at the end of the day, we’re the Miami Heat team, we’re the Miami Heat franchise and we have a goal.”
Carlos Arroyo had 12 points for the Heat, who broke 100 points for the first time and finished at 54 percent from the field. Eddie House finished with 11 and fellow reserve Ilgauskas scored 10.
”When they get everyone involved like that they are obviously a tough team to beat. They got it going against us tonight,” Nets forward Joe Smith said. ”Defensively, they do a great job of clogging the paint and making you take tough shots from the perimeter. You just have to find a way to get the easy looks and tonight we just didn’t do that.”
NOTES: Prokhorov was sitting in his suite next to Roman Abramovich, the Russian who owns the Chelsea soccer club. … The game drew an announced crowd of 17,086. With the Heat in town, parking spots that usually go for $20 or $25 were $30 on Sunday. … News of the Nets’ move apparently didn’t reach the Heat’s game notes, which still lists two games in East Rutherford this season. … The Heat haven’t allowed a field goal to a starting forward in the last two games.